The Past and the Future of Flood Management
in the Eastern Nile Basin
Eng.Tahani Moustafa Sileet
Since the dawn of human civilization, water related extreme events as floods and
droughts have always been a great concern. The Nile River, with its very special nature,
fed by rains on the mountains of equatorial Africa and Ethiopian highlands, forced its
people all through the years to face great challenges to survive in spite of the periods of
abundant floods and severe droughts. To overcome damages caused by floods, people of
the Nile have done great efforts, some of them on the country level, some others on the
regional one. This study will have on overview on the Eastern Nile Basin (Ethiopia,
Egypt and Sudan), its hydrology, climate and the damages caused by floods in this
region. The study will also conduct an analysis of previous efforts exerted in the field of
flood mitigation and management and the gaps that need to be fulfilled in order to
achieve an effective and reliable flood mitigation and management system. The role of
Flood Preparedness and Early warring (FPEW) project, one of the Nile Basin Initiative
(NBI) projects, will be presented as one of the most recent and promising activities
tackling this important issue.
Ancient Egyptians mentioned in their historical texts and on the walls of their temples the
very first flood mitigation and management concepts. They even went to personalize the
Nile and sacrificed every year, during the flood period, the most beautiful girl as a wife to
calm his anger. As Nile water was the only source of life for Egyptian due to the aridity
of the climate and the scarcity of rains, they always had the leadership in flood
management. The need for Nile water forced the Egyptian to establish one of the first
irrigation networks in the world. As fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce in many
places and times, water use has risen considerably in the past hundred years twice as fast
as the population growth, and water demands for food production, hygiene and human
well being continue to grow fast, societies are increasingly vulnerable to droughts and
water deficits. On the other hand, economic development of flood- prone areas is a driver
increasing flood hazard. Human pressure and shortage of land cause encroachment into
flood plains especially by informal settlements and endangered zones around big Cities.
There is also an over reliance on the safety provided by flood control works while
observations confirm that atmospheric moisture is increasing in many places of our
warming planet. Thus, the potential for intensive precipitation and likewise flood is also
increasing (Kundzewicz et Al, 2001). Measures therefore have to be taken to face the
present and future challenges in the light of the current and expected circumstances in the
Figure (1) Eastern Nile Region
The countries of the Eastern Nile Region are Egypt, the Sudan and Ethiopia. Main rivers
of the Eastern Nile region rise in the Ethiopian Highlands in the western half of Ethiopia
and drain generally westerly or north-westerly into the Sudan where the White Nile and
the Main Nile drain generally north, and then the Nile flows further north through Egypt
to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ethiopia and Sudan experience tropical or sub-tropical climates, with rainfall seasonally
biased and most rain falling in the summer months (June to August). Temperatures and
annual rainfall depths vary widely, depending on elevation. Parts of the Ethiopian
highlands receive average annual rainfall exceeding 2000 mm, while in far northern
Sudan and Upper Egypt there is very little rain at all.
Ethiopia covers a land area of 1.133 million km , of which just over 358 000 km is
located in the Eastern Nile river basin. The population of Ethiopia is approximately 70
million and 85% of the national population relies on smallholder subsistence agriculture.
In the Tekeze and Abbay sub-basins impacts of flooding are generally minor because
most of the population lives on elevated plateaus and not in the deep river valleys.
Sporadic flash flooding has been noted in several areas. The main exception is around
Lake Tana, particularly where flat plains adjoin the lake. The lowlands of the Baro-
Akobo sub-basin are also partially inundated by floodwaters every year.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa in terms of the area of its territory – approximately
2.5 million km . The population of the Sudan is approximately 38 million, of which
approximately 6 million reside in greater Khartoum at the confluence of the Blue and
White Niles. The annual flood from the Blue Nile (Abbay in Ethiopia) replenishes soil
moisture and fertility, and recharges groundwater, so is the mainstay of agriculture in
much of the country. Hundreds of villages line the banks of the Blue Nile and Main Nile,
and because of their proximity to the river banks are adversely affected in years of above
average floods. In large floods, lower-lying riparian land in Khartoum may be inundated,
and the city of Dongola is at frequent risk from floods.
The land area of Egypt is just under 1 million km . The population of Egypt is currently
about 75 million, most of who reside along the narrow strip of the Nile River valley or
around the river delta. The High Aswan Dam (HAD) was completed on the River Nile in
upper Egypt in 1970, and generation of hydropower and regulation of water for irrigation
by HAD has become a mainstay of the Egyptian economy. While HAD has had a major
mitigation effect on downstream flooding, a series of high flood years in 1998 to 2001
proved that flood risk management is still on the agenda for the government of Egypt.
Geography of the Eastern Nile Region:
The Eastern Nile Basin lies between latitudes 7º N and 31º N. The highlands of Ethiopia
are folded and fractured crystalline rocks capped by sedimentary limestone and
sandstone, and by thick layers of volcanic lava. Elevations in the Ethiopian part of the
river basin exceed 4 000 m in places and there are large areas exceeding 2 000 m. Most
of the population lives on the elevated cooler plateaus above the steep river valleys where
the soils are more fertile. Soil erosion is a major problem, accelerated by deforestation,
overgrazing and poor land management. A key geographical feature in Ethiopia is Lake
Tana, created by past volcanic activity, at a mean elevation of 1786.8 m ASL. Although
shallow, the lake provides a degree of natural regulation of floods and captures sediment;
however it regulates only a small fraction of the river basin in Ethiopia. The outlet of the
Abbay River (or Blue Nile) from Lake Tana is located at the city of Bahir Dar, and
approximately 32 km downstream the river plunges over the Blue Nile Falls (Tiss Issat).
After entering the Sudan, the rivers flowing from Ethiopia traverse much flatter terrain at
relatively low elevations, and longitudinal river bed slopes reduce dramatically.
The average slope of the Abbay River between Lake Tana and the border is 1.6 m/km,
but over the 735 km from the border to Khartoum the average slope of the Blue Nile is
only 0.15 m/km. The catchment area of the Blue Nile to Khartoum is 324 530 km2. The
Blue Nile joins the White Nile at Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan. The White Nile
flows north from the Equatorial Lakes region to the south, but despite its very large
catchment area, seasonal floods from this region are very effectively mitigated, first by
the Equatorial Lakes including Lake Victoria and other very large lakes, and second by
the extensive marshes of the great Sudd in southern Sudan. Downstream of Khartoum,
the joint waters of the Blue Nile and White Nile form the Nile, or Main Nile, which flows
1 350 km through extensive plains that are progressively more arid towards northern
Sudan to reach the Egyptian border. In Upper Egypt, the High Aswan Dam (HAD)
creates by far the largest man-made reservoir in the entire Nile river basin and regulates
this vital source of water for multiple benefits downstream.
Climate of the Eastern Nile Region:
The elevated plateaus in Ethiopia experience cool to mild temperatures year round,
whereas in central and northern Sudan the climate is hot year-round and very hot in the
late spring and early summer (May to July). The far northern part of the Eastern Nile
river basin in Lower Egypt experiences a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and
hot summers. Rainfall in Egypt is very low throughout the year with a low peak in winter
months (December to February). Most rainfalls along the cost with 200 mm average in
the wettest area near Alexandria. Some areas don’t receive any rains for many years and
then experience sudden downpours that result in flash floods. Figures 2,3 and 4
demonstrate the rainfall distribution in Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan respectively.
Figure (2) Rainfall Distribution in Ethiopia Figure (3) Rainfall Distribution in Egypt
Figure (4) Rainfall Distribution in Sudan
Hydrology of the Eastern Nile Region:
From south to north, the main river sub-basins flowing from the Ethiopian highlands into
Sudan are the Baro-Akobo, the Abbay and the Tekeze. The sub-basins are illustrated in
Figure (5) Nile River Basin in Ethiopia
The Akobo River defines the border with Sudan, access is very difficult from the
Ethiopian side, and there are no river gauges on the Akobo River in Ethiopia. The Akobo
from the south- east joins the Pibor flowing from the south out of Sudan, and the Pibor
then defines the Ethiopian- Sudan border until where it is joined by the Baro flowing the
east out of Ethiopia. The river then becomes the Sobat, and flows west through southern
Sudan to its confluence with the White Nile about 800 km south of Khartoum. The only
dam in the Baro- Akobo sub-basin is the Abobo Dam on the Alwero River tributary,
commissioned in 1996. The catchment area to the dam is 1 043 km2, and the maximum
storage capacity is only 74 MCM. Regular widespread flooding occurs seasonally in the
flat plain areas up-stream of the Sudan border.
The Abbay River flows out of Lake Tana at Bahir Dar, and spirals first south, then west,
and finally north-west into the Sudan. On the way it is joined by many large tributaries,
including the rivers Beshilo, Jimma, Muger, Guder, Finchaa, Didessa and Dabus on the
left bank, and the Beles River on the right bank. The Abbay passes through deep valleys
and gorges as a raging torrent during and after the wet season (July to October
approximately), conveying large sediment loads. In the Sudan the Abbay is known as the
Apart from a weir (Chara Weir) at the outlet of Lake Tana used to regulate lake outflows
for a hydroelectric station at the Blue Nile Falls, there are no dams on the Abbay River;
however the potential for hydropower dams downstream is currently being investigated.
There is one dam on the Finchaa River tributary competed in 1973, where the catchment
area is 2 500 km2. The maximum storage capacity of Finchaa Dam is 900 MCM. A
tunnel is currently being constructed between Lake Tana and the Beles River tributary to
tap the hydropower potential of Lake Tana, but there is no dam associated with the
scheme. Another dam is currently being constructed for hydropower on the Koga River, a
lesser tributary to Lake Tana. This storage will command a catchment area of only 164
km2 , and will be of maximum capacity 77 MCM.
The Dinder River and Rahad River are other large tributaries flowing across the
Ethiopian- Sudan border which join the Blue Nile on its right bank downstream in the
Further north, the Tekeze River flows from near Lalibela first north, then west and north-
west to the Sudan border at Humera where the catchment area is 63 375 km2. Like the
Abbay, it is deeply incised in highland plateaus and mountainous areas, and is joined by
several tributaries within Ethiopia. Generally, the rainfall over the catchment of the
Tekeze is lower than that over the catchment of the Abbay, there is less runoff per unit
area, and the rivers may cease flowing in the drier part of the year. There were no dams in
the Tekeze sub-basin, however a large dam- the Tekeze Dam- is currently under
construction, primarily for hydropower generation. It will command an upstream
catchment of 30 390 km2, and will have an active storage capacity of 9 293 MCM, Table
1-2 shows some details of the dams constructed or being constructed within the Eastern
Nile river basin in Ethiopia.
Table (1): River Regulation in Ethiopia
Two large tributaries flow across the Ethiopian-Sudan border and join the Atbara River
on its left bank downstream in the Sudan. These are the Angareb River (catchment area
13 326 km2) and Goang River (catchment area 6 694 km2 ). In the Baro-Akobo sub-
basin, very extensive flooding of rural areas in the Gambella occurs every year
(Selkhozpromexport, 1990; TAMS/ULG, 1997). In years of high flood, inundation of
parts of Gambella City and other townships can also occur. In the Abbay sub-basin, there
are rural localities around Lake Tana that are seriously subject to flooding, either from
the lake or from flows of tributary rivers in years of high runoff (eg. Ribb, Gumera,
Megech rivers). The flooding causes serious hardship virtually every year in particular
localities. Systematic river gauging commenced in Ethiopia only in the 1960s.
Numerous stations resumed operations in the early 1990s, and the MWR in Ethiopia has
expanded the gauge network in recent years – particularly after bilateral Norwegian
assistance – and plan to continue improvements to the network. At Humera on the Tekeze
River, records have not resumed after the period of conflict due to ongoing border
disputes with Eritrea. There are no real-time or virtual real-time reporting stations in the
Eastern Nile basin that are currently useful for flood forecasting. Some stations have
manually observed staff gauges and many have chart recorders.
Within the Sudan, main tributaries are those flowing from Ethiopia already noted above:
the Dinder and Rahad which join the right bank of the Blue Nile, and the Angareb and
Goang which join the left bank of the Atbara. As noted previously, the White Nile joins
the Blue Nile at Khartoum to from the Main Nile. Table 2 compares the flow
contributions of the White Nile, Blue Nile and Atbara Rivers to the Main Nile; The Blue
Nile is the largest contributor to annual flow volume. However in the winter months the
White Nile is the main contributor. Flows deriving from the White Nile at Khartoum are
relatively stable throughout the year, where as flows from the Blue Nile vary
substantially through the course of a year, While the annual volume of flows from the
Atbara are comparatively minor, flood peak from the Atbara aggravate flooding along the
Nile downstream if they coincide with high flows from Khartoum.
Table (2): Mean Annual Flows of the Main Rivers Contributing to the Main Nile in
It has been estimated that of the flow from the White Nile at Khartoum, approximately
50% is derived from the Sobat River, most of which is runoff from the Ethiopian Baro-
Akob sub- basin (Ahmed, 2006). Local rainfall in Sudan can also produce flash flooding
in wadis draining to the River Nile. This contributes to flood risk; however it makes little
difference to river flows.
There are two dams, Roseires and Sennar, on the Blue Nile upstream of Khartoum, and
the Jebel Aulia Dam regulates the White Nile about 32 km upstream of Khartoum. There
is also a large dam on the Atbara River, Kashm El Girba, Table (3) provides some
relevant details. Gates in Roseires and Sennar Dams are opened at the onset of the annual
floods to pass the high sediment loads conveyed by the Blue Nile, and then closed on the
flood recession to capture water for the next dry season. Despite these precautions,
substantial sediment deposition has occurred with consequent reduction in active storage
Table (3): River Regulation in Sudan
A new dam is being constructed at Merowe on the Main Nile, roughly 800 km
downstream of Khartoum near the 5th Cataract of the Nile downstream of the Atbara
River confluence. It is planned that this dam will be operated in a similar mode to those
of Roseires and Sennar in order to maximize passage of sediment through the storage
during the rising stage and peak of the annual floods.
Sudan has a long tradition of river gauging dating from pre-independence years. In fact,
Sudan has long records of good accuracy at many gauging sites along rivers.
The hydrology of Egypt is dominated by the Nile River and its regulation by HAD. The
Nile is the only river in the country, there are no tributaries and the importance of this
water source is heightened by the aridity of the climate which features low rainfall in
coastal areas and very little rainfall at all in the interior.
HAD is located in Upper Egypt, and the lake it creates (Lake Nasser in Egypt, Lake
Nubia in the Sudan) extends 500 km upstream into the northern limits of Sudan. The
reservoir has a total storage of 163 00 MCM, which compares with the mean annual
inflow of 84 00 MCM. As shown in Table(4), the total storage is divided into three zones.
According to the design, the dead storage was sufficient to accommodate the sediment
inflow over a period of 500 years. In practice, virtually all of the sediments are being
deposited in the headwaters of the storage as the river waters slow down on entering the
lake. Above around 178m, water also begins to spill laterally from the lake to the
Western Desert through a depression known as Toshka Spillway. Any water above dead
storage is available for release for irrigation, hydropower generation and to sustain
minimum environmentally acceptable flows down the river and through the delta.
Table (4): Lake Nasser Storage Zones
6.5 km downstream of HAD, the Old Aswan serves to re-regulate hydropower releases
and generate additional power. See Figure (6)
Figure (6) Regulation by High Aswan Dam and Old Aswan Dam
After commissioning, the storage filled over a period of almost 10 years, and annual
releases were relatively stable for many years. During the severe droughts in the
Ethiopian highlands during the 1980s, the lake levels declined progressively, remaining
well below the flood storage pool for many years before beginning to recover
commencing with the very large flood in 1988, see Figure(7). A sequence of generally
above- average flood, commencing in 1998 and culminating in 2001, pushed lake storage
well into the flood storage zone with releases of unprecedented magnitude since dam
commissioning, and a record high lake level of approximately 181.6 m was reached in
Figure (7) HAD Storage and Release Time Series
Downstream of HAD, the Nile continues a further 1 182 km to reach the Mediterranean
Sea. The river between HAD and the delta is divided into four main reaches by a series of
barrages. These are Esna, Naga Hammadi, Asyut and Delta Barrages. At the Delta
Barrage the river enters the delta, bifurcating into two main branches, the Rosetta Branch
and Damietta Branch.
Intensive irrigated agriculture is practiced along the entire length of the Nile River valley
downstream of Aswan Dam, and in the delta, It is virtually the only arable land in Egypt.
The total area of irrigated land in year 2000 was approximately 7.7 million feddans
(3.25x106 ha) and is expected to expand to 11 million feddans (4.6x106 ha) by the year
2017 partly due to the implementation of two new major projects: El- Salam Canal to
North Sinai, and the Toshka scheme in the south adjoining Lake Nasser.
Although flash flooding still presents problems in Egypt, after construction of HAD
flooding from the river was not a problem until a series of high flood years between 1998
and 2001. High rates of release were then necessary in operations of the dam, and it was
found that rates of release in excess of about 250 MCM/d to 260 MCM/d did cause
problems, including inundation of islands used for agriculture and of other encroaching
development on the floodplain, partly due to unauthorized land use and partly because of
inadequate land use controls over the intervening decades since commissioning of HAD.
At the time of HAD design, flood releases of up to 350 MCM/d had been allowed for the
passage of large floods such as the largest historical flood in 1878. High river flows also
caused scouring at river structures (bridges and barrages), a problem aggravated by the
low sediment loads downstream of the dams, leaving river flows with greater potential to
degrade river beds and transport material.
The governance structures and institutional arr angements in Ethiopia and Sudan have
been in a state of flux as political systems have adjusted to the resolution of inter- and
intra-national boundary issues through peace agreements. As a result, the strength of
Government institutions, in the organizational sense, has been disturbed by the changes
of reorganization and decentralization. The growth of institutions in the sense of
developing “rules of the game” (i.e. policies, systems, regulations), which make the
enabling environment for economic and social activity, have therefore also been held
Many institutional gaps have been attempted to be filled with the assistance of UN
agencies and international NGOs during this period, particularly in Ethiopia.
The following recommendations are made to fill gaps in existing policies in flood
management, and to strengthen institutional coordination arrangements in flood
preparedness and response activities in Ethiopia and Sudan.
1. Institutional strengthening and capacity building is required for new and existing
2. Ensure data sharing and dissemination between the three countries.
3. Develop institutional linkages among the various public and private sector
organizations to be involved with land management planning in the urban
localities and to assist in identifying which areas downstream of HAD are to be
piloted to plan floodplain risk management procedures.
4. Policy research assistance is desirable to facilitate future floodplain management
planning and infrastructure development:
There is a lack of current and reliable socio-economic and environmental data in the
Eastern Nile River basin. On the Fogera and Dembiya floodplains, most of those who are
at risk from serious flooding are subsistence farmers. For them, floods are a necessary
annual occurrence and, for the most part, communities have adequate knowledge of how
to live with, and benefit from them. There is less capacity in these communities to deal
with serious floods, however. The Gambella plain lies in south-western Ethiopia and is
part of the Baro-Akobo river basin (Sobat River in Sudan). Gambella city is the regional
capital, about 800 km from Addis Ababa. Severe flooding, estimated to be of annual
exceedance probability 2%, occurred in 1988, during which most of the city of Gambella
and other towns along the Baro River were inundated. Rural land on the Gambella plain
that is subject to frequent flooding is essentially used for pasture and cattle.
Early warning systems, reliable communication systems, training and education, health
care, public education on water treatment, institutional strengthening at community level,
small scale structural intervention (roads, raised earth platforms, drains, levees, gabions,
etc.), development of more effective water harvesting/irrigation systems and the to
exploit floods and expansion of flood-based crop cultivation such as rice are the essential
needs in flood-risk areas of Ethiopia.
Over the last ten years, heavy flooding was experienced in Sudan in 1998, 1999, 2001,
2002, 2003 and again in 2006. Socioeconomic impacts of these floods included the
displacement of large numbers of people, the loss of agricultural crops, damage to
agricultural inputs such as seeds and pumps, deterioration of health conditions due to the
increased incidence of malaria and water-borne diseases, and disruption of social services
such as education and health. Prior to this period, the country experienced very severe
floods in 1878, 1946, and 1988.
The attitude of residents towards annual flooding along the Blue Nile and Main Nile
mirrors the positive attitude of herders and farmers towards rains in the dry lands. A good
flood season is an indicator of livelihood security. Most farmers along the Blue and Main
Nile have a deep knowledge of flooding and are willing to endure the disadvantages of
inundation because of the greater agricultural benefits they derive from them during the
dry season. However, most communities are less capable of dealing effectively with
Major impacts of flooding include health problems, water supply and sanitation, poor
drainage and bank erosion, in addition to agricultural and livestock losses. Official
statistics indicate many homes are damaged or destroyed in larger than average floods,
though this was only occasionally noted during community consultations.
There is a need in both urban and rural localities to develop flood preparedness and
management capacity at the locality and community levels. Related to this is the need to
develop more effective access by communities to government or public flood
management and emergency relief services, particularly in the remote rural areas.
External resources which improve the speed and efficiency of community effort, or
which improve the technical quality and effectiveness of flood protection measures, and
which provide greater access to resources for post-flood rehabilitation (in health, water
supply, agriculture, etc.) are indispensable. In this way, flood mitigation and response is
largely a joint effort involving the community, the government and NGOs.
Examples of flood Damage:
For most rural communities, the impacts of floods are not limited to property damage and
immediate danger to life. Apart from property damage and disruption to productive
activity, serious effects of flooding that demand attention also include epidemics of
water-related diseases, including but not limited to surges in the incidence of malaria;
loss of property and productive land by river bank erosion (haddam). Bank erosion and
flood-induced disease are generally of greater concern to the riparian communities than
the inundation of land when the river level exceeds bank height. Table (5) represents
flood damages in Sudanese rural riparian villages. Table (6) represents flood damages in
Fogera and Dembiya Plains, Ethiopia.
Table (5): Flood Damages: Sudanese Rural Riparian Villages
Table (6): Flood Damages: Fogera and Dembiya Plains, Ethiopia
Availability of Flood Risk Related Data
In Ethiopia, access is a major limitation for siting of stations, and sites are virtually
restricted to locations where there is road access. The road network is often limited. As
there is no real-time or near real-time reporting, flood forecasting is impossible with the
existing network of river gauging stations. A smaller network of stations equipped and
operated to provide real-time data is a fundamental prerequisite. Resources for more
regular maintenance and field measurements of discharge would also have to be
strengthened to support such a network.
In Sudan, digital topographic data has recently been acquired along ~500 km of the Main
Nile in relation to the Merowe Dam project. Khartoum State will also be covered within
the next two years, and many river cross-sections have been surveyed and should be
available from MIWR. The hydrometric network in Sudan operated by the Hydrological
Stations Unit in the Nile Waters Department of MIWR is generally satisfactory, however
it would benefit from the installation of several new stations on the tributaries to the Blue
Nile and White Nile. Identification of flood risk areas is an important deficiency in the
Sudan that limits the effectiveness of flood emergency response planning and
preparedness. Digital topographic mapping should be produced for the entire length of
the Blue Nile, the White Nile downstream of Jebel Aulia Dam, and the Main Nile to at
least 100 km downstream of Dongola. Planning flood magnitudes from hydrological
analyses should be used as inputs to hydraulic models to determine planning
In Egypt, recent digital topographic data has been obtained, and following the 2001
flooding, the Nile Research Institute has embarked upon a revision of the delineation of
‘management lines’, a rudimentary form of flood risk mapping. NRI are interested in
benchmarking their mapping activity against international practice, and it is proposed that
technical assistance be provided to undertake flood risk mapping similar to that proposed
in Sudan. In Egypt, the current mapping program has included the acquisition of all
digital topographic data and river cross-sections that are necessary.
The single greatest deficiency that can be rectified for future assessments of flood
damage in all EN countries would be the preparation of flood risk mapping that would
identify the exposure of people and property to flood hazard.Also the compilation of
more accurate and detailed flood intelligence which can greatly facilitate estimation of
damages in past (or future) floods is of great importance.
Flood Forecasting needs
In Egypt, the need for effective flood forecasting is further justified by the need to
operate HAD to maximum efficiency and maximum benefit, as the regulation of Nile
waters by the HAD has become a crucial aspect of the national economy. The Nile
Forecast Center (NFC), situated within the Planning Sector of the Ministry of Water
Resources & Irrigation (MWRI), has primary responsibility for flood forecasting in
Egypt. It has developed models for short and medium term forecasting of inflows to
HAD, and long-term simulation models for investigations of reservoir operations. The
NFC is able to make near real-time estimates of rainfall in the upper Blue Nile basin.
In Sudan, the Nile Forecasting Center is a unit within the Nile Waters Directorate of the
MIWR, and has several years’ experience in use of flood forecasting models coupled
with river gauging data reported from MIWR stations on the Blue Nile, Atbara and Main
Nile. Components of the system became non-functional after several years of operation,
and apart from an expert review in 2000; no serious efforts have been made to restore
them since. Access to real-time data from Ethiopia would substantially increase the flood
warning lead times available in Sudan. Forecast river levels should be disseminated to
communities at risk in all circumstances when rivers are forecast to rise above ‘alert’
levels. Flood warnings should give equal weight to informal community preparedness
and the preparations made by government agencies.
In Ethiopia, forecasting is more difficult than in the other Eastern Nile countries because
shorter lead times are available, particularly for the flood risk areas around Lake Tana.
Longer lead times for flood warning are feasible in the Gambella plains. No practical
flood forecasting capability currently exists in Ethiopia. Furthermore, although there are a
few weather stations that can report in real time to NMA in Addis Ababa, there are no
river gauging stations equipped to report in real or near real time to MWR. That means
that effective flood forecasting is impossible with the current network. In addition to
flood forecasting, another challenge will be to develop a flood emergency response
system capable of rapid response in locations remote from Addis Ababa. Therefore, the
establishment of a Flood Forecasting Center and the installation of a real-time reporting
network of rainfall and river gauges in Ethiopia is recommended in order to improve the
capacity of Ethiopia to plan for and manage floods.
The recommended real-time reporting network of rainfall and river gauges will not only
benefit Ethiopia, but will enhance the existing flood forecasting capabilities in the Sudan
Flood Warning, Emergency Response and Post-Flood Relief and Recovery
Communities in Ethiopia respond to floods as they occur. There are some practices such
as moving livestock off the lowest floodplain areas at the start of the flood season.
Community flood preparedness and response is tied to the more frequent and smaller
floods. Rarer, larger floods will almost certainly exceed this experiential capacity, as was
evident during the big floods of 2006.
There is no dedicated flood emergency management agency in Ethiopia, and no formal
flood emergency planning is undertaken. The DPPA is the one organization with
experience in dealing with the impact of natural hazards including recovery from floods,
but their planning efforts are primarily directed to the disasters of drought and famine.
There is no formal process for recording the impact of previous floods or for estimating
and recording what the consequences of future floods of different severity might be.
In Sudan, the CDO assume the role of a flood emergency management agency, and the
HAC coordinate post-flood recovery and relief. However, there is no formal process for
recording the impact of previous floods or for estimating and recording what the
consequences of future floods of different severity might be. Annual reports by CDO
provide only general numbers and lack accurate definition of locations, timing,
corresponding river stage, or cause of flooding, and are of limited use as flood
intelligence for management of future floods.
Without access to flood risk mapping or a Flood Intelligence System, and without a flood
forecasting system that provides adequate lead times, advance risk-based scenario
planning in advance of floods is very difficult. It is also recommended to establish
national arrangements to define roles and responsibilities and to encourage civil society
to collaborate in the planning process.
Flood Mitigation Planning
Ethiopian government has not undertaken any structural works to modify flood hazard
within the areas of the Eastern Nile basin. The aggravating effects of high lake levels
have already been mitigated by recent redevelopment of CharaChara Weir on the outlet
of Lake Tana, and diversions from the lake for the Tana-Beles hydropower project
currently under construction should further mitigate the impact of high lake levels on
inundation of adjoining floodplains. Future dams being investigated for irrigation
developments would modify but not eliminate the immediate down-stream flood risk if
they proceed. Current construction of Tekeze Dam will also mitigate future floods
downstream, including on the Atbara River in Sudan.
In Sudan, many riparian villages have developed systems of low levees (terraces) to
provide a degree of protection from flood hazard during low to average floods. Some
villages receive assistance from government or NGOs in these efforts. More formal
levees exist in certain urban areas in the Sudan, particularly in Khartoum. Strategic town
levees also exist in Dongola. Flooding on the Main Nile at Dongola will be affected by
implementation of Merowe Dam upstream, currently under construction and preliminary
analysis implied that the flood mitigation effect of the dam will be minor. Flood behavior,
flood risk and flood benefits along the Blue Nile and Main Nile in the Sudan could be
modified quite significantly by future construction of large hydropower dams upstream
on the Abbay River in Ethiopia.
In Egypt, a high level of modification of flood hazard was achieved for all downstream
reaches of the Nile with the construction of HAD 1968.
Watershed management can be an effective measure for flood risk management if
pursued vigorously and applied over broad areas. The governments of Ethiopia and the
Sudan have policies and plans for watershed management but they are having little
practical effect due to lack of resources and extension work. ENTRO have identified
watershed management as a priority which is being addressed by a parallel ‘fast-track’
Project (the Watershed Management Project) under the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action
Program (ENSAP) under the Nile Bain Initiative.
A related aspect that demands priority action in the Sudan (and Egypt) is river bank
Management of land use and land use practices on floodplain land can also confer many
benefits by reducing exposure to flood hazard.
Flood Preparedness and Early Warning (FPEW) Project Summary
The Flood Preparedness and Early Warning (FPEW) Project is one of the fast-track
projects identified for priority action under the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program
(ENSAP) as part of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
The development objective of the FPEW project is to reduce human suffering and
damages from, and capture the benefits of, flooding in the Eastern Nile. The project
focuses on flood risk management and non-structural approaches to managing the
impacts of floods: including floodplain management and flood mitigation planning; flood
forecasting and warning; and emergency response and preparedness at regional, national,
local and community levels. This will contribute to the longer term goal of establishing a
comprehensive regional approach to flood management that integrates watershed, river
and floodplain management, and incorporates a suite of structural and non-structural
flood mitigation measures within a broad multi-purpose framework.
Expected Outcomes from the FPEW project include:
• Assessment of the flood risk in the Eastern Nile region to support flood management
planning and ENSAP investment planning.
• Improved floodplain management for major urban centers vulnerable to flood
damage, and for flood-prone rural communities.
• Operational flood forecasting systems in Eastern Nile countries with appropriate
compatibility and mechanisms for exchange of information and data.
• Improved emergency response by governments at all levels, and enhanced
• Enhanced regional collaboration and cooperation during flood events.
The project was conceived as a number of proposed components, to be fully defined or
modified during Project Preparation.
1. Flood Mitigation Planning
This component was envisaged as proactive measures to manage the risk of floods
while enhancing beneficial effects. It was intended to embrace practical measures to
identify flood risk and implement community-based plans to manage flood risk.
2. Flood Forecasting and Warning
Development of flood forecasting systems for the Eastern Nile countries is an
important measure that should build upon existing forecasting systems and capacity.
3. Emergency Response and Preparedness
To be most effective, response to a natural disaster warning should be rapid,
comprehensive and with clear lines of authority. Because each country has existing
organizations and procedures for emergency response, this component was envisaged
as strengthening national capacities and developing trans-boundary aspects of
emergency response and preparedness.
4. Regional Component
This component is intended to enhance regional cooperation and collaboration
through exchange of expertise and information/data, sharing of experience,
professional development and institutional capacity building, and technology transfer
regionally and inter-nationally.
The estimated total cost of all Project elements is $42.2 M.
Proposed Measures for FPEW Project implementation
• Programs to install secure sealable food storage in houses or communal locations,
with construction materials resistant to prolonged inundation of foundations.
• Refuges for women and children elevated above flood levels; and cattle refuges.
• Construction of flood-proof courses at the base of dwellings where houses are
damaged by prolonged inundation;
• New construction techniques that support housing above ground and above flood
Other developments have considerable potential to reduce the vulnerability of those
exposed to flood hazards as access roads or footpaths; improved telecommunications;
agricultural extension work to combat pests brought by floods and preventative health
A pilot study is recommended to try appropriate technology approaches to bank
stabilization for rural areas.
For urban areas in Gambella Ethiopia and Dongola in the Sudan, development of flood
protection works is proposed for inclusion in Project implementation.
Technical assistance to the relevant government agencies in Khartoum State is proposed
to develop a unified land management policy and improve urban land management
planning – particularly in relation to management of urban riparian land. Some assistance
is also proposed to support land use management in the master plan for Bahir Dar.
A proposal was also developed for a field sampling program in the three rivers of
Khartoum followed by a detailed research program of hydraulic and sediment transport
modeling. The research findings would provide a knowledge base of hydraulic behavior
in the urban reaches of the rivers that could be used in review of future works, and the
models could be applied to evaluate specific proposals for future riparian development.
The problems of scour and bank erosion when high releases must be made from HAD are
to be addressed with a program of field sampling and scientific research using hydraulic
and sediment transport modeling for a pilot reach of the Nile in Egypt where bank
erosion, scour and/or channel morphology instability are an element of flood risk to
Once detailed flood risk spatial information is available downstream of HAD, the next
step towards comprehensive flood risk management is the preparation of a Floodplain
Risk Management Plan that will guide future development of riparian and floodplain
land, and link with statutory land use planning. This will be an entirely new step for
Egypt (and within the EN region), and it is proposed that technical assistance is provided
so that international specialists can work with local specialists to develop a preliminary
Floodplain Risk Management Plan linked to land use planning for a pilot area.
One important aspect of the FPEW Project is to develop mutual understanding and
support between the regional countries of the Eastern Nile in relation to flood
management. Some of the initiatives proposed in preceding chapters will require regional
cooperation and exchange of data and information – most notably the development of a
shared real time reporting network of river and rain gauges. Initiatives like this involve
regular interaction that will engender good will and trust, and will benefit all participants
by developing a shared vision for learning and technical development, greater exchange
of technical knowledge and better flood management. However, regional specialists
working in flood management will also derive benefit from special initiatives that provide
a formal framework for technical exchange of data and advice. This should include an
entire range of joint activities supported by the FPEW project as annual post-flood
conferences; joint study tours; technical seminars and conferences; visiting
Table (7): Ethiopia Sub- Program Summary
Table (8): Sudanese Sub- Program Summary
Table (9): Egypt Sub- Program Summary
Table (10): Regional Sub- Program Summary
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